STS.053 Multidisciplinary Interactive Learning Through Problem-Solving

STS.053 Multidisciplinary Interactive Learning Through Problem-Solving


Fall 2022: Fridays 9am-12pm
Prereq: None
3-0-9 units
Lead Instructor: Professor Chakanetsa Mavhunga


This problem-solving course is located at the intersection of the humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) and STEM, communities, corporations, government, foundations, and multilateral organizations. It is designed to equip students with skills essential for multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary problem-solving (MDPS) skills. It answers two basic questions position the discipline as a tool and ingredient in MDPS:


1. How may students deploy the skills they are acquiring in their degree program in a multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural design-build team so that it brings its own unique and indispensable perspective?


2. What culture of collaboration can ensure that all disciplines and non-academic knowledges are valid at their own terms and not in the service of other, ‘more superior’ ones?


The Problems STS.053 will address
The specific problem this class is contributing to solving is Climate and Sustainability, with a focus on building capacity within marginalized communities in the United States and internationally to solve their own problems. The instructor believes that students and faculty can play the role of bridge between MIT and their communities and act as catalysts on either end, but only if they are effectively trained at the intersection of STEM, the HASS, and society itself.


Catalytic Spaces for the Problem-solving
All examples will come from two sites that Professor Mavhunga is developing into catalytic spaces for community-based innovation at the intersection. One is Research || Design || Build (RDB), founded in 2019 in his rural village in Zimbabwe. The second is an experimental farm in Northampton, MA, very close to Smith College; later, after the trial phase, this initiative may move permanently to South Carolina. Most of the material is derived from ongoing work at RDB, where equipment both locally made and imported is now in place; electricity and Wi-Fi installed; production sites built; crops harvested; animal and plant waste gathered; fishponds built; and field transport ready. This mixed portfolio of product lines has projects at various stages of implementation. Some are entering processing; all are ready for commercialization.


Lead Instructor
Professor Chakanetsa Mavhunga, Program in Science, Technology, & Society, MIT


Collaborating Instructor
Professor Tamuka Nhiwatiwa, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Zimbabwe